Edinburgh Bookshelf

Old and New Edinburgh Vol. II


North Bridge.] ADAM BLACK. 339 removal in 1850 to a handsome and more spacious .one, built in a kind of old Scoto-English style of .architecture, an the opposite side, and on the site of a portion of Halkerston?s Wynd, and numbered as 6 in the street, the establishment of the old and well-known firm of publishers, Adam and Charles Black. The former, long a leading citizen, magistrate, and member of the city, was born in 1784, .and died on the 24th of January, 1874. Educated at the High School and University of his native city Edinburgh, though but the son of a humble builder, Adam Black raised himself to affluuence, and is said to have more than once declined the honour of knighthood. After serving his apprenticeship, he started in business as a bookseller, and among other important works brought out the ? Encyclopzedia Britannica,? under the joint conduct of Professor Macvey Napier and James Browne, LL.D.; and to this his own pen contributed many articles. From the beginning of his career he took an active part in the politics of the city, and in the early part of the present century was among the boldest of the slender band of Liberals who stood up for burgh reform, as the preliminary to the great measure of a Parliamentary one. When the other wel!-known firm of constable and Co. failed, the publication of The Edinburgh Revim passed into the hands of Adam Black, and thus drew the Liberal party more closely by his side. He was Provost of the city from 1843 to 1848, and filled his trust so much to the satisfaction of the citizens, that they subscribed to have his portrait painted to ornament the walls of the Council Room. He was proprietor, by purchase, of the copyright of ?? The Waverley Novels,? and many other works by Sir Walter Scott. It was when he was beyond his seventieth year that he was returned to the House of Commons as member . for the city, in succession to Lord Macaulay ; and being a member of the Independent body, he was ever an advocate for unsechrian education, absolute freedom of trade, and the most complete toleration in religion; but the cradle of his fortunes was that little shop which till 1821 was, as we said, deemed ample enough for the postal establishment and requirements of all Scotland. The new buildings along the west side of the North Bridge, from Princes Street to the first open arch, were erected between 1817 and 1819, with a Tange of shops then deemed magnificent, but far outshone by hundreds erected since in their vicinity, These buildings are twice the height in rear that they are to the bridge front, and their erection intercepted a grand view from Waterloo Place south-westward to the Castle, and thus roused a spirited, but, as it eventually proved, futile resistance, on the part of Cockburn and Cranston, Professor Playfair, Henry Mackenzie, James Stuart of Dunearn, and others, who spent about &I,OOO in the work of opposition. Their erection led to the demolition of a small edificed thoroughfare named Ann Street, which once contained the house of a well-known literary citizen, John Grieve, who gave free quarters to James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, when the latter arrived in Edinburgh in 1810, and published a little volume of poems entitled ?The Forest Mintrel,? from which he derived no pecuniary benefit. Poverty was pressing sorely on Hogg, ?but,? says a biographer, ?he found kind and steady friends in Messrs. Grieve and Scott, hatters, whose welltimed benevolence supplied all his wants.? While he was still in obscurity, John Grieve obtained him introductions to Professor Wilson and other local literati, which ultimately led to his becoming a contributor to BZackwood?s Magazine. Mr. Grieve is referred to in the quarrel between the Shepherd and the Blackwoods concerning the famous Nocft-s Ambrosiana ? He ceased to contribute, whereupon Wilson wrote thus to Grieve on the subject :- ?If Mr. Hogg puts his return to ?Maga? on the ground that ? Maga? suffers from his absence from her pages, and that Mr. B. must be very desirous of his re-assistance, that will be at once a stumblingblock in the way of settlement ; for Mr. B., whether rightly or wrongly, will not make, the admission. No doubt Mr. H.?s articles were often excellent, and no doubt ?Noctes? were very popular, but the magazine, however much many readers must have missed Mr. Hogg and the ?Noctes,? has been gradually increasing in sale, and therefore Mr. B. will never give in to that view of the Subject. ? Mr. Hogg in his letter to me, and in a long conversation I had with him in my own house yesterday after dinner, sticks to his proposaf of LIOO settled on him, on condition of writing, and becoming again the hero of the ?Noctes? as before. I see many difficulties in the way of such an arrangement, and I know that Mr. Blackwood will never agree to it in any shape, for it might eventually prove degrading and disgraceful to both parties, appearing to the public to be a bribe given and taken dishonourably.? ?My father,? adds Mrs. Gordon, whose life of the Professor we quote, ?never wrote another ?Noctes ? after the Shepherd?s death, which took place in 1835.? In consequence of tie increase of populatibn and traffic by its vicinity to the railway termini,
Volume 2 Page 339
  Shrink Shrink   Print Print